MacKenzie "Mack" Miller, 89, a Hall of Fame thoroughbred trainer who won the Kentucky Derby with Sea Hero, died Dec. 10 at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center hospice unit in Lexington after suffering a stroke.
Miller, then 71, was working for philanthropist Paul Mellon's Rokeby Stable in 1993 when Sea Hero and jockey Jerry Bailey overcame 12-1 odds to win the derby. The horse was fifth in the Preakness and seventh in the Belmont.
"I really never thought I'd win a Derby," Miller said afterward. "My time was running out. It makes you want to cry."
Mellon was 85 at the time, and when he closed his stable in North America in 1995, Miller retired.
"It's sort of a sad time," Miller said when he announced his retirement. "I guess I'll feel lost about it. But when you reach this age, you've served your time. I couldn't go on forever."
Miller was born Oct. 16, 1921, in Versailles, Ky., and started out working for Calumet Farm in the late 1940s, where he offered to work for free. The farm hired him at $125 a month.
Miller had become interested in racing when his father took him to Keeneland in 1936.
"I looked at those horses and said, 'Gosh, they're beautiful, so shiny and slick,' " he said nearly 60 years later.
Later he started his own public stable and "starved to death," he said, training horses in Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey and New York.
He trained the filly Oil Painting to five stakes victories in 1954, and the next year Leallah became the champion 2-year-old filly in North America under his tutelage. He took over the stable of Charles Englehard six years later and stayed on for Englehard's wife after Englehard died in 1971 before going with Mellon in 1977.
Miller was inducted into the National Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in 1987.
-- Times staff and wire reportsCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times